Sunday, March 13, 2011

Na Wewe (2010)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Of the films nominated for Best Short Film, Live Action at the 83rd Academy Awards, Na Wewe is structured the most like the one-act play that short films are often compared to. The film is a single scene, roughly nineteen minutes in length, of the Burundi Civil War of the mid-1990's. A group of Hutu rebels has stopped a van full of passengers, and the rebels attempt to determine who is a Hutu and who is not.

Na Wewe's greatest strength is its authenticity. The film, according to its website, was "written by a person who has lived in the beauty of Burundi and suffered its horrors." The story lived by the writer, Jean-Luc Pening, is truly extraordinary: Pening was driving through Burundi when he was stopped by a military patrol and shot point blank in the temple by a rebel. He would recover, though left without sight, and wrote Na Wewe fifteen years later to "highlight this often ill-known genocidal war" and to "denounce the absurdity of a conflict that made 300,000 victims." Pening, along with director Ivan Goldschmidt, have expertly recreated the horrors of the genocide while still finding the shreds of humanity that exist during the darkest moments.

The only real fault of Na Wewe is the dissipation of the tension as the plot progresses. At the start of Na Wewe, as the van is stopped by the rebels and the initial inquisitions begin, the tension is rife. But as the rebels question one passenger after another, the scene becomes repetitive and the tension wears thin. It seems paradoxical to suggest that a nineteen minute film is too long, but Na Wewe would have benefitted from reducing the number of individuals questioned by the rebels.

Na Wewe isn't as creative as some of the other nominated shorts, though it is definitely one of the strongest. The winners of the category tend to either be light and humorous or incredibly dark and depressing, and since Na Wewe is neither, it was not surprising that it didn't win the trophy.

Remaining: 3168 films, 881 Oscars, 5455 nominations (The discrepancy from the last entry is due to my discovery that I had not removed The Lost Thing (2010) from my list of remaining films.)

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